Chris Paul had a new home in Los Angeles and the potential for a $200 million contract if he stayed with the Clippers.
He also had reason to doubt a championship would ever come there.
So sometime between walking off the floor after a Game 7 loss with the Clippers last spring and walking back onto it Tuesday night in a Houston Rockets uniform, Paul decided he needed to pack up his family and try for a title elsewhere.
"I just felt that it was time," Paul said.
His free agency process and decision is the subject of a three-part documentary series titled "Chris Paul's Chapter 3" that debuts Thursday on ESPN.
The first episode shows Paul's frustration following the Clippers' ouster against Utah in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs and his questioning the Clippers' culture. He had helped them become a perennial playoff team since his arrival in 2011, but not one that ever seriously contended for a title,
"Somewhere, I don't know when it was — I'm not a saint by any means, it could have a lot do to with me also — but we just weren't having as much fun," he said.
He talked with his family and business partners about possibilities with Boston and San Antonio — where he feared Gregg Popovich might only coach for a couple more years — and visited music mogul Jay-Z and Disney CEO Bob Iger for their advice. He began to view Houston as the best option and eventually accepted a trade in late June, agreeing to opt in for the final year of his contract and delaying free agency until next summer.
All that after he had bought a house in Los Angeles across the street from Clippers teammate Paul Pierce, moving his in-laws in last January.
"Truthfully, I didn't think there was no way that Chris would leave the Clippers," said Pierce, now retired and an ESPN analyst. "He really built up something special, you know, with getting the Clippers back to being legitimate, make the playoffs every year, (winning) 55 games. He just bought a new home like less than a year ago. He had a $200 million offer on the table. So that really shocked me that he would leave."
Paul never planned for his first real foray into free agency to become public.
"When it all came together and we saw how it looked it was like, man this would be cool to tell the story of how it's not just cut and dry, you just pick a team," Paul said. "We showed the move and everything that goes into it."
Paul laments having to always have the ball in his hands in Los Angeles — which won't be a problem alongside James Harden in Houston. And he worries about having to move his two young children, eventually telling his son he can't go do his job without him. And after they finally move, Hurricane Harvey devastates Houston, a focus of the second episode.
"We are constantly looking for opportunities to bring fans closer to athletes in order to better understand their experience. In this series, Chris Paul gives fans a truly unprecedented look at his free agent decision-making process and how he thinks about both his basketball career and his life off the court," said Connor Schell, ESPN executive vice president of content.
All three episodes will be available on the ESPN App and on-demand beginning Friday. They will then air next Tuesday from 8-9:30 p.m. EDT on ESPN.
Paul said he learned a lot about the free agency process — but would love to avoid having to do it again next summer.
"In a perfect world you win a championship and there's nothing to even talk about," he said.
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